Army says reinforcements sent to region after 'clashes'

Settlers riot in West Bank towns after teen’s murder; Palestinian killed, others hurt

One village resident in critical condition, homes and cars burned; Israeli photographer says he was brutally beaten, had equipment destroyed by settlers, some in army uniform

A Palestinian inspects the damage to a home in the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
A Palestinian inspects the damage to a home in the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Settlers rampaged through a number of Palestinian West Bank villages Friday and Saturday, vandalizing property and causing injuries and a fatality, as the body of a missing Israeli teen was found nearby. An Israeli journalist said he was brutally beaten by the rioters and had his equipment destroyed.

As Israeli forces searched for 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir overnight on Friday, Jewish settlers entered the village of al-Mughayyir, northeast of Ramallah, and set houses and cars ablaze. One person was killed in that rampage, Palestinian medics said, though it was unclear whether he was shot by settlers or Israeli security forces who arrived on the scene amid clashes between the settlers and residents.

Palestinian health officials said 25 others were wounded. Israeli troops delayed the ambulance carrying the slain 26-year-old’s body for several hours, witnesses said.

On Saturday security forces found the body of Jerusalem resident Achimeir, saying he had been murdered in a terror attack.

Dozens of settlers then returned to the al-Mughayyir’s outskirts, burning two homes and several cars. The Palestinian Health Ministry said three people from the village were injured, one critically.

In the nearby village of Douma, settlers set fire to several homes, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency. The Palestinian Red Crescent said six people were injured by gunfire but did not say who fired.

Israeli rights group Yesh Din alleged that some dozen villages were attacked throughout the day.

Armed Israeli settlers gather on a hill overlooking the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The IDF and Border Police said “clashes developed” between Israelis and Palestinians at several locations in the West Bank, during which stones were hurled and shots were fired.

Dozens of Israelis and Palestinians were injured in the incidents, the army said. “Many forces” were deployed to the scenes of the clashes and used riot dispersal means. “As of now, all the incidents have ended,” the IDF said.

The military said it was deploying more troops to the West Bank to stave off further violence.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tweeted: “I appeal to the public, let the security forces act quickly in the hunt for the terrorists. Acts of revenge will make it difficult for our soldiers in their mission. The law must not be taken into one’s own hands.”

Yedioth Ahronoth photographer Shaul Golan said he was attacked by a group of settlers after arriving at the village to document events.

“I was walking around the village taking pictures when I saw a group of masked Jews emerge from a nearby olive grove, walking around… as if they owned the town. I filmed as they torched homes,” he told the Ynet news site.

Golan said he hid under a table in one of the burned homes as the assailants approach. “One of the children spotted me and called over the rest of them. They beat me mercilessly, breaking my finger and taking my bag to burn all of the photography equipment inside.”

“Then they searched my pockets for a memory card to make sure I didn’t have any recording of what they were doing,” he said. “I started telling them, ‘I’m not an Arab, I’m a Jew.’ They ran toward me, screaming in terror and grabbed me, shouting, ‘You’re a Jew, how are you not ashamed of yourself?'”

“Some were in IDF uniforms and holding guns. There were 20 or 30 of them who beat me as I shouted for help, hoping that soldiers would hear me. But they were the soldiers… I lay on the floor as every one of them kicked me in the head and stomach,” Golan said.

“They left me stripped and threw my motorcycle keys into the fire, so I’d have no way to get home. They had hate in their eyes,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from police or the military on the incident.

Tensions in the West Bank have been especially high since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7. Israel declared war on Hamas after terrorists attacked Israel’s south, killing some 1,200 people in southern Israel and taking 253 hostages. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive since then, according to Gaza health officials, though the figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel assesses some 13,000 terror operatives have been killed in the fighting.

Since the war began, Hamas has been trying to ignite other fronts, including in the West Bank, in hopes of exerting more pressure on Israel. Such efforts have largely failed, though more than 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since October 7, most in clashes with the military but a few by vigilante settlers.

Israeli security forces man a checkpoint during a search for a missing Israeli teenager in the village of Mughayir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing of the Israeli teen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killing. “We will get the murderers and those who helped them, as we do to anyone who harms the citizens of the state of Israel,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, who went missing in the West Bank on April 12, 2024 and was found dead a day later. (Courtesy)

Security experts have long warned that settler reprisals could play into the terror group’s hands.

Netanyahu also added that he “calls on all citizens of Israel to allow the security forces to do their work unhindered.”

Opposition Keader Yair Lapid said “violent riots of the settlers are a dangerous violation of the law and interfere with the security forces.”

The left-wing Israeli rights group B’Tselem said that “tens of thousands of Palestinians have been abandoned in recent hours to the wild violence of armed settler militias.”

“While villages are on fire and the number of dead and injured is rising, the Israeli army is allowing or taking part in the riots. This is what Israel has created in the West Bank: a reality of blood and more blood. Revenge and more revenge.

“A weekend that began with the criminal killing of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, continues with more victims, including Jehad Afif Abu Alia, with many wounded Palestinians.”

In 2014, the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank escalated tensions and eventually ignited a 50-day Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, at the time the deadliest round of fighting between the two sides.

In February 2023, dozens of settlers attacked the West Bank town of Huwara, setting fire to Palestinian homes and cars, hours after two Israeli brothers were shot dead in a terror attack there. The scenes of chaos and security forces’ failure to contain the violence shocked and angered many in Israel, as well as in the international community.

According to the IDF, Achimeir set out in the early morning hours of Friday from a farm near the outpost of Malachei Shalom to go shepherding. Hours later, the sheep returned to “Gal Farm” without him.

Malachei Shalom is located near al-Mughayyir near Ramallah.

Achimeir’s body was spotted on Saturday morning by a drone operated by the Border Defense Corps’ 636th Combat Intelligence Collection unit, close to the farm where he initially went missing.

The murder was believed to have been carried out by Palestinian terrorists, and to have taken place in the late morning hours or early afternoon of Friday, according to an initial investigation.

Israeli security forces and volunteers take part in a search for missing Israeli teenager Benjamin Achimeir, in the West Bank on April 13, 2024. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Next to the teen’s body, troops found his personal belongings that were handed over to police for investigation.

“Security forces are continuing the pursuit of those suspected of carrying out the attack,” the IDF and Shin Bet said, adding that they “send their heartfelt condolences to the family.”

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